Good morning from Augusta. There are four days until Election Day.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Somebody is not telling the truth,” said Timothy Parlatore, the attorney for Lucas Sirois of Farmington, who is accused of federal crimes around an alleged $13 million marijuana and money laundering ring that authorities say involved police, a prosecutor and a selectman, among others. Here’s your soundtrack.
What we’re watching today
The governor endorsed the corridor but criticized its main builder, indicating the main problem for fellow opponents of Question 1. Big guns voiced support of the $1 billion Central Maine Power Co. corridor on Thursday. U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm tweeted in support of a no vote on Question 1, the referendum on Tuesday’s ballot that is aimed at killing the corridor. Gov. Janet Mills also devoted her weekly radio address to the same topic.
The Democratic governor’s position on the corridor is not new. It was her support of the project after inking a benefits package with Central Maine Power Co. and its affiliates that set it up for its success in the regulatory realm. She has centered her case for the project on the regional emissions reductions that will come by replacing fossil fuels with hydropower.
On Thursday, she repeated that argument at length, but the most notable part was when she addressed the service problems that plagued CMP after a 2017 windstorm and led to much of the grassroots animosity toward the utility. She said, “I’m no fan of CMP,” before concluding with how she weighs those problems in relation to the benefits of the project.
“Fundamentally, for me, it’s not about CMP. It’s about climate change,” she said. “We need clean energy. We need reliable electricity. We’ve got to turn down the furnace and we’ve got to say no to fossil fuels.”
But the utility had only a 37 percent approval rating in a poll released by Digital Research, Inc. on Thursday. In another question, 59 percent of voters said the corridor will have a positive effect on CMP’s profits, as opposed to only 20 percent saying it will be good for Maine jobs and 9 percent saying it will help CMP customers.
The survey also found 49 percent of voters plan to vote yes to oppose the corridor, while 36 percent plan to vote no and 15 percent are undecided. The problem for CMP is that Maine voters look to fundamentally disagree with Mills about whether the campaign is about it.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine’s least vaccinated areas are seeing an uptick in inoculations,” David Marino Jr., Bangor Daily News: “The increase is significant as Maine continues to see vaccination disparities between the state’s rural and more urban areas. Those differences are especially prominent among the state’s young residents, a more relevant factor than ever as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prepares to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for those ages 5 -11.”
Maine’s vaccine mandate for health care workers takes effect today. Gov. Janet Mills resisted calls from some lawmakers to provide a testing alternative for the industry ahead of an enforcement deadline that she initially pushed back by a month. Vaccinations rose sharply across the health care field as of Sept. 30, but removal of employees will come as the entire sector is facing critical worker shortages that have led to suspended care in certain parts of hospitals and nursing home closures. It’s unclear how many were barred from working due to the mandate as of midnight, but the state has said those who have been partially vaccinated by the deadline would be allowed to work with additional precautions.
— “How to make sense of Portland’s ballot question on the future of homeless shelters,” Nick Schroeder, BDN: “Even if more Portland voters opt for smaller shelters in next week’s referendum, it might not be enough to derail the city’s plan to build a 200-bed homeless services center on the outskirts of town.”
— “Salem’s executed ‘Witch King of Hell’ and his accusers were all from Maine,” Troy R. Bennett, BDN: “What’s more, [the Rev. George Burroughs] was accused of committing many of his fantastical deeds in Maine. They ranged from uncanny feats of strength, to holding Satanic church services in the woods, to handing out black magic dolls with pins for poking. One person even testified Burroughs ruled hell, second in command to only Beelzebub, himself.”
How Jared Golden is handling Dems’ spending ‘deal’
Key Democrats inked a deal that addressed major concerns from a Maine holdout, but they have not agreed on how to pass it. The White House released a “framework” for a pared-down $1.75 trillion spending bill mostly targeted toward childhood and climate programs that has appeared to assuage moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who have been the main focus of negotiations. But a House vote on a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill was delayed on Thursday after progressives said the framework was not enough and the larger bill should be passed in tandem.
That will further frustrate Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine’s 2nd District, who was part of a centrist group that had a deal with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, to vote on the bipartisan bill at the end of last month, which never happened. He has not yet commented on the framework, but he called again for a vote on that measure on Thursday.
Golden called on Democrats to better target benefits in the larger package. The new version puts a 250 percent income cap on the child care assistance program (Golden suggested 200 percent). While it only extends a child tax credit for one year, it limits that to households making less than $150,000 but makes the refundable part permanent. The changes have certainly edged closer to what Golden has asked for, but passing it is about process now.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.
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